Surface, Screen & Structure

Description / why digital fabrciation


“Architecture continually informs and is informed by it’s modes of representation and construction. Perhaps never more so than now, when digital media and emerging technologies are rapidly expanding what we conceive to be formally, spatially, and materially possible”.

– Lisa Iwamoto, Digital Fabrication: Architectural and Material Techniques (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), p. 4


“Architecture needs mechanisms that allow it to become connected to culture. It achieves this by continually capturing the forces that shape society as material to work with. Architecture’s materiality is therefore a composite one, made of visible forces (structural, functional, physical) as well as invisible forces (cultural, political, temporal). Architecture progresses through new concepts that connect these forces, manifesting itself in new aesthetic compositions and affects. Ornament is the by-product of this process, through which architectural material is organized to transmit unique affects”.

– Farshid Moussavi and Michael Kubo, eds., The Function of Ornament (Actar, Barcelona, 2008), back cover


Digital fabrication is not an end in of itself. It is tool and as such is inherently a means to an end. As designers we must consider it a formal problem (what are we designing?); a problem of production (how are we using this tool); a problem of scale (how big, or small, can we build); a problem of context (who are we building for?); and a problem of necessity (is digital fabrtication necessary for this project?). We will approach these problems and address as thoroughly as possible. In creating a sun screen envelop, essentially an appliqué onto a facade, we are creating ornament. We are designers and therefore how we express the form of this ornament is of utmost importance but the form must perform or else it remains functionless and therefore not applicable to a building system. In order to achieve a balance between form and function your designs must anticipate and adapte to extrinsic forces (light transmittance, wind, and the immediate surrounding urban conditions) as well as intrinsic forces (material thickness, translucency, thermal expansion, and strength). Lastly, it is critical that you understand the parameters required for digital fabrication, such as part management, assembly logics, machine constraints and mass customization. Too often digital fabrication projects remain in the confines of the gallery, validating a process or serving as proofs-of-concept models. As designers, we are responsible for thoughtful solutions to these problems that address formal expression and design innovation while rigorously performing at the level required of any constructed building system.

– Joseph Vidich

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